Our small business phone system picks for 2022

By: DAN KENITZ | Fact Checked By: JAMIE OSTROE | Updated: November 14, 2022

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It’s more than just a call or two. When you’re a small business, your phone systems need to be efficient, customer-friendly, and capable of delivering crystal-clear sound no matter where you are—or where your remote teams may be. Having a great system can be the difference between pleasing customers and leaving them out in the lurch. We took a deep dive into these systems to find out what the best phone system for small business niches like yours might look like.


Our Top Picks

  1. GoToConnect – Best All-in-One Small Business VoIP Service
  2. Nextiva – Best for Internal Business Use
  3. RingCentral – Best for New Businesses
  4. Grasshopper – Best for Solopreneurs
  5. DialPad – Best for Small Business Bargain-Hunters

Small Business Phone Systems Reviews

Today’s small business phone systems are frequently VoIP, or voice-over-Internet-protocol. This means you don’t need a landline to use them. You simply need an Internet connection and a reliable device. With that in mind, how did we identify the best VoIP small business phone system? Our methodology saw us working from a list of twenty top names and whittling them down to a final fifteen. We then checked features, brand reputation, and pricing to identify which small business phone systems worked best for which markets. Here’s what we found.

gotoconnect logo

GoToConnect – Best All-in-One Small Business VoIP Service

If you want an out-of-the-box solution that’s easy to use, simple to onboard, and can provide a robust suite of services that should cover everything a small business needs, your simplest choice is GoToConnect.

GoToConnect pricing is within range for small businesses, quickly unlocking unlimited users when you opt for a slightly pricier service tier, which makes it our rating for the best all-in-one option.

Pros
  • Robust support in almost every channel
  • Desktop works better than the app
  • Unlimited users at $29/month
  • Easy to port hardware to GoToConnect
Cons
  • Teensy bit pricer than most options
  • Add-on numbers cost $5/month

Get Started Visit GoToConnect’s website to get started.

GoToConnect features:

  • Voicemail transcription: With an option like GoToConnect, let’s be honest—you’re probably not going to use this feature a lot, as there are so many other options for your customers to choose during the queue.
  • Call scripting: Let GoToConnect recommend specific scripts and handle a variety of customer funnels to improve your ability to respond to inbound calls.
  • Queue management: Although you need a pricier tier to unlock full queue management (and unlimited queues), we find it’s probably worth the few extra dollars per month GoToConnect will charge you.
  • Meeting management: Easily arrange and schedule meetings, incorporate them into emails, and handle both potential client calls and internal communications.

What markets does GoToConnect serve?

Though this is a list seeking to identify the best cloud-based phone system for small businesses, there’s an argument to be made that GoToConnect can also handle medium-sized businesses and up.

nextiva logo

Nextiva – Best for Internal Business Use

Not all small business phone systems are about the customer-facing experience exclusively. Nextiva is one option that aims to help you wrangle your small business communications from the internal side.

This means it provides the infrastructure necessary to help you run meetings, collaborate internally, and get both teams and customers engaging in open dialogue.

Pros
  • Easy to understand internal comm dashboard
  • Intuitive onboarding
  • Dashboard for all omnichannel outreach
Cons
  • No voicemail transcription
  • Navigation could be more intuitive

Get Started Visit Nextiva’s website to get started.

Nextiva features:

  • Voicemail transcription: Nextiva may be oriented both towards customer-facing and internal communications, but that doesn’t prevent it from offering basic features like voicemail transcription to keep your business moving.
  • Call scripting: Especially useful given Nextiva’s ability to use SMS, online chat, voice, and other features to create an omnichannel experience when interacting with customers—often from a single place, which makes it easier to handle for your internal team.
  • Queue management: Don’t irritate customers, but instead filter them to the appropriate extensions. Even better, filter them to the appropriate channels, which can help you better manage a large influx of customers.
  • Meeting management: Nextiva excels at inter-office communication, making meetings happen via SMS, chat, voice, and video.

What markets does Nextiva serve?

Nextiva is built for larger businesses, especially those in need of robust internal communications to get on the same page. The omnichannel offerings are a highlight here because they help larger businesses handle incoming customer calls and queries with a variety of channels. This makes it easier for your team to engage customers in ways that suit their unique skill sets.

ringcentral logo

RingCentral – Best for New Businesses

RingCentral is a simple, straightforward phone system that’s easy to sign up for and easy to set up—which is why we named it the best small business phone system for new businesses. But you don’t have to be a new business to enjoy the features here.

Used properly, RingCentral can unify your internal messaging, your video meetings, and your customer-facing phone systems to have your business sound much larger than it may actually be.

If you’re looking for the best small business phone systems for new businesses, we think this is your best bet.

Pros
  • Free option available
  • Easy for tech newbs to join meetings
  • Up to 20 users on lowest pricing tier
Cons
  • Customer support can be hit-or-miss
  • Desktop interface a bit complex

RingCentral features:

  • Call scripting: “Agent scripting,” as RingCentral calls it, is a tool of working from scripts which helps your agents train for both sales and tech support, giving you a more productive way of dealing with both potential clients and existing customers.
  • Lead management: Organize your incoming leads and send them to the appropriate person at your company. This is especially important for businesses with a lot of incoming calls to the main company number.
  • Queue management: This helps you not only make it easier for someone to wait on hold while they’re calling your company, but makes it possible for you to organize the incoming calls and prioritize them appropriately.
  • Meeting management: Run meetings through the RingCentral application—so much so that many people use this as a Zoom alternative.

What markets does RingCentral serve?

RingCentral lets you use up to 20 users in its lowest price tier, $19.99/user/month, before you unlock deeper pricing tiers. You can also unlock its video meeting features with the free plan. In other words, a growing company on a budget can get a lot out of RingCentral’s offerings, which in turn helps you build a company communication system from the ground up.

grasshopper logo

Grasshopper – Best for Solopreneurs

Freelancers, solopreneurs, anyone who needs another phone number—Grasshopper is an ideal solution for all of the above.

As a “virtual phone system,” it offers a free trial for a second business phone number, which will give you an adequate preview into small business phone systems without the commitment.

Pros
  • Easy to separate business/personal on the same device
  • Wide option of toll-free numbers available
  • Customizable hold music and voicemail
Cons
  • Aimed more at smaller operations
  • Completely virtual, so you’re limited to your mobile phone

Grasshopper features:

  • Voicemail transcription: Been out of the office and need to read over a voicemail quickly from the road? Or simply don’t have the time to listen to them? Grasshopper offers voicemail transcription that’s easy to access from the app.
  • Call scripting: Use pre-recorded voicemail prompts and scripts to properly guide people to the appropriate extension. Grasshopper also features professional voiceover recording for some scripts in some cases.
  • Queue management: Customize your queue management and choose what you want people to hear as they wait for you to pick up. You can also set custom business hours even if you use a personal mobile phone to properly screen callers.

What markets does Grasshopper serve?

Why is Grasshopper best for solopreneurs and individuals who might be launching a side hustle? Most of the features are aimed at expanding your cell phone into a veritable mobile headquarters. You can add a few extensions and utilize a second phone number, using all sorts of great VoIP features that customize your business experience. But for something more robust, you’ll likely want to choose a business VoIP provider that scales to larger teams.

dialpad logo

DialPad – Best for Small Business Bargain-Hunters

Try it free, use their low-cost option—it doesn’t really matter, because no matter how you use DialPad, you’re likely going to find that it provides some of the best value on our list.

While it doesn’t necessarily offer the same sophistication as the big-business options, its smaller-than-small business phone systems are ideal for any company on a limited budget that wants to sound like a company on an unlimited budget.

Pros
  • Easily-browseable customer call logs
  • Free trial, lowest tier affordable
  • Send/receive calls over WiFi on mobile
Cons
  • Inconsistent functionality between iOS and Android
  • Can be difficult to integrate with other systems

DialPad features:

  • Voicemail transcription: Given how much you’ll end up using DialPad to get your communications done, the easy-to-use voicemail transcription feature lets you work through follow-up calls with ease.
  • Call scripting: There is a pop-up feature available for call scripting that reminds you when you might want to go to an established script, based on what a customer might be complaining about. This makes your customer support more robust, even without paying for pricier customer support systems.
  • Lead management: With DialPad, it’s easy to organize your console in such a way that the customers will arrive at the right extensions. This will help you scale, as well, even if you don’t have a lot of inbound customer calls at first, because it lets you set up the proper systems to handle larger call volumes.
  • Queue management: Keep customers from getting bored while routing them to the right people! You can also work multiple channels, such as chat and SMS, to keep your customers flowing in the right conversations.
  • Meeting management: Video meetings are easy to use here and offer plenty of features to function as a Zoom alternative.

What markets does DialPad serve?

DialPad delivers a lot of good value for both small and growing companies without charging you an arm and a leg. You’ll likely find the free video conferencing a nice introduction to these bargain-ready features, which can help you launch a business from the ground up.

Compare the best small business phone systems side-by-side

Software Name Why we picked It Starting price for cheapest plan Highlights
GoToConnect Best All-in-One VoIP Service $24/month All-in-one solution for small businesses
Nextiva Best for Internal Business Use $18.95/month Handle internal comms with ease
RingCentral Best for New Businesses Free ($19.99 for “Essentials”) Easy to set up, out-of-the-box solution
Grasshopper Best for Solopreneurs $26/month Great for side hustles
DialPad Best for Bargain-Hunters $15/month Excellent features for the value

What is a small business phone system?

A small business phone system—at least these days—is a VoIP, cloud-based solution that lets you run a complete phone, messaging, and often video conferencing suite from desktops and mobile devices. A small business phone system typically comes packaged with features like queue management and a “front desk” so you can sound to the outside world like a much larger operation than you actually are.

How do business phone systems work?

When choosing a small business phone system, you need to consider first what type you need. Let’s look at the types of business phone systems available:

  • Landline business phone systems function off of existing infrastructure to dial people directly, not relying on Internet. Services like Spectrum, for example, will allow landline services depending on your specific needs.
  • VoIP or Voice-Over-Internet Protocol, is essentially running phone systems over Internet devices like desktop computers and mobile phones. This is by far the most common these days—working with Grasshopper, GoToConnect, RingCentral, and more.
  • PBX is a private branch exchange system, or a private phone network set up for your internal company use. Businesses like Cisco shine here.

Business phone system features

Even if you’re a small business, we think the key phone system features relate to managing your customers and making them happy. That’s why we look for:

  • Queue management. What is the customer experience like if they call and you’re busy? You should have options for entertaining them while they wait, while also putting in systems for routing them to the right person.
  • Meeting management. Videoconferencing with potential clients—reliably—is worth its weight in gold.
  • Call scripting. We included call scripting on this list because it’s one of the features of small business phone systems that can help you scale. You can use it to both train your responses to customers and repeat the most-appreciated responses you have when addressing their concerns.

How much do business phone systems cost?

We noticed that business phone systems tend to cost somewhere between $15-$30 per user, per month, although this is subject to change.

  • On the higher end of our list, GoToConnect’s $24/month for their minimal features tier was a reasonably-priced option.
  • Others, like RingCentral, even offer many of their video conferencing services with a free pricing tier.
  • Grasshopper’s $26/month was on the higher end as well, especially given that it works best for solopreneurs and individual freelancers.

As you navigate which option is best for your budget, we recommend you expect to pay about $20 per user per month as a general rule. A few dollars here and there on either side of that rule of thumb means you’re probably dealing with a reasonably-priced option.

How to choose a business phone system

When choosing a business phone system, you need to determine where you can find the most overlap between your business needs and what the vendor provides. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. User number and pricing structure. First, make sure it’s affordable. Do you have 50 users and need to find an offering with unlimited users? Then that’s your first priority.
  2. Features list. As you’re doing here, weigh the features available with the pricing you can afford. Compare two vendors against each other and see which one offers more for your dollar.
  3. Free trials and other considerations. Can you try out a free option or a free trial? This is the stage of your exploration where you experience the software directly. You may find that while one offering looked better in an earlier step, one ultimately wins out for usability.

Business phone system FAQ

What are the main differences between phone systems for small businesses and phone systems for large businesses?
The main difference is your ability to scale. Phone systems for large businesses will typically offer enterprise-based solutions that let you onboard entire buildings of people. But for small businesses, you’ll see pricing for just a few extensions, as we saw with Grasshopper’s lower pricing tiers.

How do you set up a phone system for a small business?
The first step is to select the type of option you want. If it’s a landline, for example, you may need to select from a list of small business phone devices the vendor offers. With VoIP, it can be as simple as downloading software to plug into your existing desktop and phone devices.

Which kinds of businesses benefit most from a good phone system?
Any business with a lot of incoming calls from customers will benefit from features like queue management and voicemail transcription, as these features will make you more efficient. They’ll also help your customers feel more valued since you can offer individualized responses. For larger businesses, the ability to scale with features like automated responses can be a necessary evil.

How we chose the best small business phone systems

We worked from a selection of twenty business phone system vendors and then whittled down our list to fifteen. From that fifteen, we weighed key features and specs, including:

  • How comprehensive the list of features each vendor offered was
  • The customer service and support features of each offering, such as onboarding assistance and live chat
  • The brand’s reputation
  • Pricing features, especially in context—for example, pricing with unlimited users may actually be less expensive despite having a higher initial price

We then collected information from videos, live demos, company websites, and online reviews to assemble the information you see here. We scored companies on scales of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) across the above tiers, which all factored 25% into their total scores.

From there, we then contextualized which offerings might best suit specific types of businesses, which resulted in the list of our top picks.